Score one for religious liberty: SCOTUS decides to leave the Little Sisters of the Poor alone for now

by Ellen Kolb

Supreme_Court_Building_at_DuskTry as it might, the federal government has not yet convinced the U.S. Supreme Court that the health of American women depends on forcing a bunch of nuns to help procure contraception for their employees via employer-provided health insurance. The Court on May 16 saved the Little Sisters of the Poor and several other plaintiffs from the threat of ruinous fines for resisting the Obamacare contraceptive mandate. Score one for religious liberty. Now, the Little Sisters can get back to their mission of caring for the elderly poor in more than 30 countries – a mission that would be set back to the tune of $70 million a year in fines if the Obama Administration has its way.

The mandate arises out of Obamacare’s treatment of contraception as basic preventive health care, free to the end user – but not free to the provider of health insurance, even if that provider is an employer with religious objections to providing anyone’s birth control.

Mandate supporters say that employers shouldn’t be involved in an employee’s birth control decisions. Mandate opponents agree. The difference is that opponents mean it. Forcing someone else to pay for your birth control is certainly involvement.

The Court’s unanimous opinion did not affect the constitutionality of the mandate and did not put an end to the litigation. It simply punted the challenges back to lower courts, with the acknowledgment that the federal government already has a way to provide “free” birth control without coercing employers to get in on the act: the federal Obamacare insurance exchanges.

The attorneys for the Little Sisters are cheering.

“This is a game-changer. This unanimous decision is a huge win for the Little Sisters, religious liberty, and all Americans,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “The Court has accepted the government’s concession that it could deliver these services without the Little Sisters. The Court has eliminated all of the wrong decisions from the lower courts and protected the Little Sisters from government fines.”

See the Becket Fund’s full statement on the Court’s action here.

 

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